14-year-old dog abbey
a grateful whale
On the front page story of the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday, Dec 15, 2005, you would have read about a female humpback whale who had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. The fifty-foot whale was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her her tail, her torso and a line tugging in her mouth. A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farallone Islands (outside the Golden Gate) and radioed an environmental group for help. Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her – a very dangerous proposition. One slap of the tail could kill a rescuer. They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her. When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed them gently around – she thanked them. Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives. The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth says her eye was following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.
When he was a small boy, he had loved butterflies. Oh, not to net and mount them, but to wonder at their designs and habits. Now a grown man with his first son to be born in a few weeks, he found himself once again fascinated with a cocoon. He had found it at the side of the park path. Somehow the twig had been knocked from the tree and the cocoon had survived undamaged and still woven to the branch. As he had seen his mother do, he gently protected it by wrapping it in his handkerchief and carried it home. The cocoon found a temporary home in a wide-top mason jar with holes in the lid. The jar was placed on the mantle for easy viewing and protection from their curious cat who would delight in volleying the sticky silk between her paws. The man watched. His wife’s interest lasted only a moment, but he studied the silky envelope. Almost imperceptibly at first, the cocoon moved. He watched more closely and soon the cocoon was trembling with activity. Nothing else happened. The cocoon remained tightly glued to the twig and there was no sign of wings. Finally the shaking became so intense, the man thought the butterfly would die from the struggle. He removed the lid on the jar, took a sharp pen knife from his desk drawer, and carefully made a tiny slit in the side of the cocoon. Almost immediately, one wing appeared and then outstretched the other. The butterfly was free! It seemed to enjoy its freedom and walked along the edge of the mason jar and along the edge of the mantle. But it didn’t fly. At first the man thought the wings needed time to dry, but time passed and still the butterfly did not take off. The man was worried and called up his neighbor who taught high school science. He told the neighbor how he had found the cocoon, placed it in the mason jar, and the terrible trembling as the butterfly struggled to get out. When he described how he had carefully made a small slit in the cocoon, the teacher stopped him. “Oh, that is the reason. You see, the struggle is what gives the butterfly the strength to fly.”